Reflection and direction

One of the lads I train with asked me recently how I got into this training lark. And, as is customary, this got me to thinking... now just in my mid-30s, I've been involved in rugby (both codes) for 20 years. How on earth did that happen! Time is a slippery bugger, if you don't keep an eye on it, it will slip it's leash and make a dash for it!


Now, it's not like I started with minis rugby either, it's almost all of my legally responsible life haas been spent in rugby in some way, shape or form.// No wonder my mum used to get frustrated that I never put the same commitment into my studies!

At the end of my first season (or part season in truth) I started to consider the merits of getting bigger and stronger and took myself into town and signed up to the gym. I was working in a pub, so I had strange timings but some cash in my skyrocket and this seemed like the way to go. Tucked around the corner from the town centre was a spit and sawdust type place with some gnarled fellas in the corner and some well used and abused kit. Looking back on it now, had I not been so fresh-faced, I suspect some of those blokes probably would have offered me some pharmaceuticals to assist my training had I been that way inclined (which I wasn't and am still not, but that's a different post).

I got the off the shelf programme from the duty mid-afternoon bloke and picked up some strange ancillary movements from the guys in there. Then I took the next steps on the road, much like anybody else, I started to pick up magazines from the shops, all of which promised to turn me into the Hulk with the new programme. It's strange and yet familiar looking back on this 18 years journey now. Being me, the magazines weren't enough to sate my curiosity so I took refuge in my other favourite pastime... books (get your mind out of the gutter you filthy individuals!).

And in an unattended corner of the bookshop in downtown Suffolk, I found a dual code strength training book. And I knew enough to know that leaguies (who were the only professional rugby players at that time... apart from the Southern Hemisphere union boys) were bigger and more powerful, this seemed like the way to go. And I still have the book today. The book that started my love for the big three: the snatch, the clean and the squat. It was mostly the power clean that stuck with me and since I taught myself from that book with a barbell set in the rusty corrugated iron barn at home, I still have some horrible form faults to address!

Since then I have picked up a lot of habits and lumps of metal. I have also dropped some of both! My bookshelves creak with more resources than a hobbyist should have and my hard-drives are rammed full of information from coaches great and small. I hope I can add to that list for somebody else at some point in this journey. Mind you, every time I think I have found something revolutionary I turn a corner (or a page) and find that somebody else has done it before! While some of the science is illuminating and pretty impressive, I wonder how much out there is genuinely ground-breaking. That said, while everything appears circular, there is also an uphill gradient to it, a degree of movement towards the stars as we all build on the contribution of the generations and coaches before.

Some 18 years later I haven't lost the enthusiasm for discovery or asking questions (and yes, that did get me into trouble with some teachers in sixth form) or for helping out team-mates. To be sure, I lack street smarts or the killer edge (without which you cannot hope to have any length of representative rugby career) but I have made up for it with desire to learn, loyalty for family (and the boundary between family and team is virtually non-existent), willingness to put myself second and have picked up some certificates along the way. The lack of street smarts means that I am unlikely to ever turn this into a business of my own but coupled with the fact that I get my jollies from seeing other people flourish and reach towards their potential, it's good news for somebody! Who knows, I might even come out with something useful one of these days!

We can all but hope!

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